May 5, 1999
Coping with Stress
For my stress self-assessment walk, I decided to hike on the Putnam Trail. During my walk, I thought about how my body is feeling stressed physically and emotionally. I also considered the ways I handle that stress, or fail to do so.
As the end of the semester approaches, I have been feeling the level of stress in my life rise in proportion to the amount of work I have to do. There have been numerous commitments, like writing for the Spectator, attending Bible study, singing in the Inter Varsity worship band, and meeting with friends. These things have caused me to program a mental schedule in my mind so I won’t forget anything and stand people up.
School projects are the other major concern. Right now I’ve been working on speeches, writing papers, taking tests, studying, and working hard in general. In addition, there has been the headache of registering for fall classes, setting up summer housing, and finding a ride home for this weekend so that I can go to a job interview there. To top it off, a crush on a guy in one of my classes has become its own emotional rollercoaster lately.
As I thought of all these things on my walk, I could feel my heartbeat accelerating, my palms getting sweaty, my back becoming tense, and I had a sense of urgency, a feeling that I had to get to work immediately if I was ever going to get everything done. Then, to cope with these feelings, I used reappraisal. I told myself that I always get everything done on time, and surely, if I took it one day at a time, all the pieces would again fall into place. I usually have a list of goals for the day in my mind, and as long as I get a reasonable amount accomplished, my sense of control stays intact, and I don’t get too overwhelmed and stressed.
Physical activity is another way I positively handle stress. Exercise, especially hiking and biking, helps me to think through things that are going on in my life, and I also get to take a break from studying to enjoy the sunny spring weather. Talking problems out, or just sharing stresses with my friends is also a common way I try to relieve stress. It doesn’t always work though, because sometimes after five people in a row have asked how I’m doing and I’ve related all the stuff I have going on, I feel more overwhelmed than ever, and down on myself for being negative by complaining about all the work I have to do. Perhaps the best way I handle stress is through my daily time with God. As a Christian, it is a great comfort to me to know that God is in control, and can give me the strength I need to get through everything that comes my way. Time reading the Bible and praying have proved great ways to restore peace to my soul.
At the end of my hike, I felt more relaxed, focused, and determined not to give up. It’s true that sometimes behaviorally I find my body getting tense and I complain to my friends, and emotionally I feel overwhelmed and weary. But through cognitively thinking things through and physically exercising, I am learning to cope with stress healthily and effectively.